Is Social Listening The Future of Polling?

Blog | 04 Oct, 2016

Written by Katie Glass and Joshua Danton-Boyd



When was the last time you posted to social media? Maybe within the last few minutes?

We constantly post rants about our terrible TV provider or funny cat videos and reach an audience larger than ever before – and that opinion is there for all to see. Social media is not only a collection of our everyday thoughts and memories but is also a view into our society and how the world views us.

Now think back to the last time you answered a call from an unknown number? Probably before Caller ID was invented. As a major decision faces the US with the 2016 Presidential election, how can we rely on outdated methods like phone surveys to truly capture the sentiment of voters when very few people pick up, let alone have a landline. Social media holds the key.

Traditional Polling

Traditional polling is outdated. According to the CDC, nearly half (47%) of all American households do not have landlines. Still to this day, most current polling methods deliver surveys to a generated list of telephone numbers, nearly all landlines. Add to the fact that there has been a sharp decline in willingness to take a survey, answering machines and screening unknown numbers make this easy, can polling still pull from a completely random sample of the population? 

In an October 2015 Pew Research Center study, 65% of all Americans utilize social networking sites. With the decline in reliability of polling to present a truly representative opinion, coupled with the explosive growth of social media, could/should social media channels be a more accurate sample to understand and monitor broad, national trends in public opinion?


Will They, Won’t They?

In Spring 2016, the United Kingdom prepared to vote on the “Brexit” referendum. Pollsters were predicting the U.K. would not vote to leave the E.U. But, on June 23rd, in a surprise to many, we did. In the months leading up to the vote, Jellyfish analyzed social conversations surrounding Brexit. Through this social listening, the sentiment actually favored voting to leave the EU, contrary to what traditional polling was showing. Jellyfish showed how social media users were actually feeling about the movement; something polling cannot show.


Clinton or Trump?

The 2016 Presidential Election has us all wondering who will become the next POTUS. Every day, the media highlights this or that poll predicting Trump is four points ahead in Ohio or Hillary has a 4.6 point advantage. Too close to call? Jellyfish, once again, decided to go directly to the American people and listen to what they were actually thinking. 

Looking at the battleground State of Ohio, Jellyfish pulled social media conversations from January until September 2016 to get a snapshot of how voters truly felt about the candidates, which could, in turn, predict this year’s election results in that state. Analyzing conversations county by county, Jellyfish determined which areas of the state leaned more Republican and which leaned more Democratic.


According to the results of the findings, Ohio’s social sentiment indicates a 2.6 percent advantage for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton this November. If this prediction is true, this would give Clinton the critical state of Ohio and its 18 Electoral College votes. As both Trump and Clinton aggressively vie to be the next POTUS, Jellyfish will continue to monitor social sentiment, but as of today, Jellyfish predicts Ohio will be cast in a shade of blue.


What Does the Future Hold?

As social media continues to permeate our global culture and our online profiles become further extensions of ourselves, social listening will become a critical key to gauging social sentiment. Whether a major election, a world crisis, or a Hollywood awards show, marketers have the unique opportunity to take a closer look at what people are truly feeling. Because, like it or not, true sentiment may no longer come from someone’s mouth, but it might very well come from their keypad.

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